The Ann Arbor News
Wednesday, January 26, 2000
At a recent conference of music educators
in Ann Arbor , members of the University
of Michigan Vocal Health Center staff were
on hand with a video of a human larynx in
action. They often pitch prevention of voice
Your voice "is your natural instrument," says
Norman D. Hogikyan, director of the center. "If
you abuse it, it may not serve you well
for a lifetime. It's not a trumpet you can
put in a nice case and put away."
Here are a few tips from the center's staff
for avoiding strain or irritation that might
keep you from speaking or performing in
everyday life the way you'd like.
- Avoid screaming, yelling, and pushing
your voice when it's showing some
signs of strain. This can cause hemorrhagic
polyps or nodules. Pop and rock singers,
but also others, experience these.
- Don't smoke. In addition to cancer,
smokers run the risk of benign growths
called smoker's polyps, in which the
vocal folds become thickened, resulting
in a lower pitch, particularly in women,
- Avoid caffeine before a speaking
engagement. It dries out the larynx.
If acid reflux is a problem, avoid
caffeine entirely, since it relaxes the
muscle at the top of the stomach. Try
not to eat late at night and keep the
head elevated while sleeping.
- Keep a water bottle or glass handy
to keep vocal tissues hydrated. The
adage of six to eight glasses a day
is a good one.
- If your job entails speaking to groups,
consider using a microphone or other
amplification. Teachers may find they
can reduce voice fatigue by changing
classroom conditions - turning
off a loud fan, for instance, or
leaning over individual students so
they can speak to them more softly.
- Limit alcohol consumption to social
drinking. Like caffeine, alcohol
dries out tissues and can cause acid
- "Listen to your voice," says Hogikyan. "If
it's complaining to you, if you notice
a persistent change, get an evaluation
from your doctor."